Are you intimidated by prayer? Many Christians talk about prayer but far fewer actually pray in any meaningful way. Could it be that we misunderstand what it means to ‘pray?’
I have seen people do many things, all the while claiming to ‘pray.’ In my Pentecostal church, I have heard people become deeply emotional in prayer; shouting and crying. I have sat through ‘prayers’ that seemed more like legal briefs prepared to convince God to act. Few things move me more than listening to a little child talk to Jesus from an open heart! In my deepest times of grief, my prayers were sometimes just sighs and the name of Jesus repeated over and over. Some pray standing, others kneeling. Some raise their hands toward the heavens, others lie face down in humility. Some speak aloud, others remain quiet. Some use prayers written by others. Some pray in simplest terms- ‘help me, heal me, guide me.’
So what is the ‘right way’ to pray? All of the above.
Prayer is communicating with God. I do not use the same tone or method to communicate with others, do you? When I am excited my voice gets louder. When I am really serious, my tone deepens. Some communication is wordless! A rich life of prayer will include times when we speak at length with God and times when we wait silently before Him. Paul says “I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray.” (1 Corinthians 14:15, Message)
Paul also teaches us to “pray continually.” (1 Thess. 5:17) Keep the conversation going, every day, all day. In other words, “stay in touch with God.” There are a few people in my life that I speak to often. I text them, call them, email them. We share thoughts, keep one another encouraged, and give advice. That is what the Spirit desires from us. He wants us to keep an open line of communication. Do you pray only as a last resort? Do you turn the Lord only when you have exhausted all other resources? Our Father invites us to keep the conversation going, to stay in touch, listening.
For Jesus prayer was like His very breath. Without breath, we die. Without prayer, spiritually we die, too! Learning to live with a constant awareness of the Presence of God gives us a power over temptation, keeps us secure when fears arise, and provides us with insight for each day’s challenges. Are you intrigued by those places in the Scripture where you read phrases like this- “the Lord spoke,” or “the word of the Lord came”? Were those ancient prophets a special kind of men? Not at all. The difference was that they had learned to listen, to live in the Presence, to recognize His voice among the static. And, so can we!
I should not imply that prayer is easy, simple, or without cost. A life of prayer demands a focus in us that is foreign to many. We have to learn to step away from the activities and noise that keep us from hearing His voice. We must learn not to fear being by ourselves (not the same as being alone) and allowing time to pass without words. The best life of prayer involves holiness; not to be confused with piety. It is possible to live piously and still have never given ourselves entirely to God, which is the definition of holiness. Living near to His heart, however, is a wealth beyond comparison.
So, let us pray!
Rejoice in prayers of praise.
Sing your prayers of worship.
Pray alone, pray with others.
Let tears become prayers of petition.
Pray the Psalms.
Pray with single sighs.
But, make sure that you pray! Prayer, like most all things, is a learned skill. Those who pray often, learn to pray best.
Here’s a word from the Word – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)
”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Amen
(Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)